Ralston leads 2018 Western Amateur



Northfield, Ill. (Aug. 1, 2018) ... 
A co-leader after the first round, Spencer Ralston, of Gainesville, Georgia, separated himself from the field Wednesday with a 5-under 66 and sits atop the leaderboard of the 2018 Western Amateur at 13 under after 36 holes at Sunset Ridge Country Club in Northfield, Illinois.

The 36-hole cut came at a tournament-record 137, and 44 players advanced to the final 36 holes of stroke play Thursday. After Thursday’s two rounds, the field will be trimmed to 16 for match play. The record cut beat the previous record, set last year, by four strokes. 

Despite hitting only one fairway, Ralston, a junior at Georgia, was able to put himself in enough good positions to make birdies. Thanks to a second day of strong putting, he rolled in eight of them, including three in a row on his second nine, to help him to a two-stroke lead over his nearest pursuers.

“I made a ton of putts,” he said. “That can make up for a lot. I’m really confident in my putter right now.”

Collin Morikawa, of La Canada Flintridge, California, and Sam Stevens, of Wichita, Kansas, both are tied for second at 11 under. Morikawa tied the low round of the tournament with a bogey-free 63. Stevens shot 66.

“Really, everything was working for me,” Morikawa said. “I started off by hitting it well off the first tee and hitting it close for a birdie. I gave myself a lot of chances, and I took advantage of them. It was a good day.”

A senior at Cal and No. 2 in the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking, Morikawa is playing in his fifth Western Amateur and looking for his first trip to the Sweet 16. His best finish came last year when he tied for 23rd at Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Illinois.

“My goal out here is to win,” Morikawa said. “I will keep my foot on the pedal and make as many birdies as I can. At the end of the week, I want to be the last one standing, but I have to worry about tomorrow first and go from there.”

Isaiah Salinda, of South San Francisco, California, and John Augenstein, of Owensboro, Kentucky, are tied for fourth. Augenstein, a junior at Vanderbilt, is the No. 3-ranked player in the world, while Salinda, a Stanford senior, won the Pacific Coast Amateur last week at Olympic Club in San Francisco, California.

Ralston missed the 36-hole cut in his first appearance at the tournament last year. While he’s 36 holes away from qualifying for match play, Ralston believes he has the game to compete when the format switches Friday.

“I know I’m a grinder, and that’s a good quality to have,” he said.

The No. 1-ranked player and Ole Miss senior, Braden Thornberry, of Olive Branch, Mississippi, shot 66 on Wednesday to make the cut on the number. It’s the first time he’s survived the first cut in three appearances at the tournament.

Two of the four players in the field who qualified for last year’s Sweet 16 advanced to Thursday. Min Woo Lee, of Perth, Australia, is tied for ninth at 8 under, and John Pak, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, is tied for 27th at 6 under.

- Matt Harness/WGA